Call Us: 850-362-6467
Check out what's happening around Okaloosa County, Florida
Where you can find superior lifestyle, leading technology and boundless opportunity!

September 2022
From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD

Winston Churchill famously said “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” This sage wisdom can be applied to virtually any situation that life can offer – whether taking a trip, playing a football game or saving for retirement. I would also venture to guess that anyone reading this piece understands the value of planning and preparation as it pertains to your chosen career field or industry. Economic development is no different. Effective strategic planning helps ensure focus, purpose and alignment by defining clear-cut goals and objectives. Of course, when it comes to developing a strategic plan for a member-supported organization like One Okaloosa EDC, understanding the views of our members and many stakeholders is a vital piece of the overall puzzle.

As you may know, One Okaloosa EDC engages in a purposeful Strategic Planning process every three years. Given the aforementioned importance of stakeholder input, surveys are used to solicit substantive feedback. In preparation for the 2023-2025 planning process, surveys were distributed to three key stakeholder groups this past June – One Okaloosa EDC Investors, Public Sector Partners and members of the broader Okaloosa County business community that currently aren’t One Okaloosa investors.
Of particular note, the broader business community was surveyed for the first time this year and undertaken with the assistance of our valued Chamber partners including the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. In the end, we received completed surveys from nearly 250 individuals representing literally thousands of employees. Many thanks to those of you who took the time to share your thoughts with us! Your feedback was thoroughly reviewed by One Okaloosa’s Executive Committee and staff during a facilitated Strategic Planning retreat held in August, and helped inform the development of seven new strategic goals for the 2023-2025 timeframe that you can view here:

With these seven strategic goals for the next three years now approved, One Okaloosa EDC’s Executive Committee and staff are working to populate each goal with specific objectives for the upcoming 2023 fiscal year. Once these objectives are approved in October, One Okaloosa’s Executive Committee will receive quarterly progress briefings. While the road map is now effectively established, we know from experience that new opportunities and unforeseen challenges will present themselves that require the occasional pivot (think COVID-19). Bottom line though, through purposeful and informed planning, success remains squarely in our sights.

Defense Support Initiatives
By Bob Marinan, Chairman

The DSI has entertained two engaging speakers during our last two meetings. In August, our guest was Dennis Wikoff, the President and COO of Vertex Solutions. Vertex Solutions is developing an Extended Reality Research Lab and Fabrication Facility which has the potential of creating up to 100 new jobs in our county. The development of these simulators will assist in training pilots and controllers without requiring them to travel to other locations to fly actual aircraft; thereby increasing productivity and reducing costs. 
In September, we welcomed Mr. Dale Marks, the new 96 Test Wing (TW) Vice Director as a new member on the DSI. His presentation illustrated he is very much aware of and up to speed with the issues and concerns impacting our local area and is a committed partner to the DSI mission. From a military mission standpoint their current key focus areas include autonomous vehicles, hypersonic development, and the F-35. 

The primary community focus is the Childcare Development Center solution. The 96TW supports the Higher Ground Education childcare development taking place in Crestview; targeted for a December 2022 ground breaking. The 96TW’s main mission is weapons development and testing, and safety is a priority. Team Eglin has conducted a Mission Impact Analysis to identify a location for an additional military constructed CDC facility. In addition, they have increased childcare hiring, training and wages. Additional community focus areas included widening Highway 85 and a new military medical facility in the north end of the county. 
Regarding the status of the Childcare Development Center in Crestview; Higher Ground Education has purchased property in the City of Crestview and is proceeding with building a facility to accommodate approximately 170 children. They also purchased property in Navarre for development of a twin facility. In the meantime, during their development process, they have identified a facility in Crestview to lease and plan to open in 90 days to help alleviate some of the current challenges.  
Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network
By Nic Dezinski, Chairman

Just like that, an entire year has flown by! I can’t believe this is the last time you get to hear from me reporting on TeCMEN. Although I am excited to roll right into service on the One Okaloosa Executive Board representing the TeCMEN community. I am very grateful for the members of TeCMEN and for their support. TeCMEN members show up; you show up for our monthly meetings which are always full of attendees; you show up with good questions and conversation; you show up to support our community and provide a great representation of Okaloosa County and the technology, manufacturing, and engineering support we have to offer. Thank you for your support of this vibrant community we call home and the technology, innovation, and jobs brought to Okaloosa County as a result of your hard work.

We were honored to have Representative Patt Maney as the August TeCMEN meeting guest speaker. He shared an in-depth summary of legislative activities and invited input for local needs for the upcoming legislative session. This provided a great opportunity for TeCMEN members to interact with Representative Maney and discuss the needs of our community. Thanks to AA Tactical Inc.// AA Customs Inc.// Aerohead Inc. for sponsoring the meeting.

Thanks to Bernard Johnson (Florida Power & Light) for sharing an update regarding the USAF Civic Leader Program during our September TeCMEN meeting. There is a lot about this program that many of us don’t know and Bernard broke it down for us during the meeting. The Air Force Chief of Staff Civic Leader Program is an Air Staff-level program comprised of civic leaders selected by officials from Air Force major commands, the National Guard Bureau, and Headquarters Air Force. Bernard was inducted to the USAF Chief of Staff Civic Leader Program in 2018 representing AFSOC. It was a very informational meeting and I think a lot of people left wanting to apply to be honorary commanders which is a good start if you are interested in getting involved with the USAF Civic Leader Program. Thanks to Dynamic Software Solutions (DS2) for sponsoring the meeting.

You may have heard us discuss a partnership with Skyway Acquisition. As an added TeCMEN benefit, we have entered a one-year contract with Skyway Acquisition, a Florida-based consulting and training firm for federal contractors. Skyway Acquisition provides consulting support for pre-award, post-award, and strategy, as well as customized and interactive training to fit TeCMEN companies. The Skyway Community provides access to premium content, passive training, tools, and interactive insights. The first TeCMEN Skyway Acquisition opportunity was the Defense Training Workshop held on August 18th at the joint UWF/NWFSC campus, which was comprised of a morning workshop and one-on-one consulting support held in the afternoon. Thank you to the 13 TeCMEN members that attended the session.

Thank you to our renewing TeCMEN members, Applied Systems Engineering, Applied Technology Academy, CareerSource Okaloosa-Walton, Doolittle Institute, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Enco Electronic Systems, General Dynamics, MAG Aerospace, and Sunshine Aero.

Congratulations to Holly Karr, Agile Program Manager at Beast Code, who will assume the role of TeCMEN Chair effective October 1st.
Business Expansion and Support Team
By Kevin Lovelace, Director of Business Success

In the last newsletter, I wrote about the Site Selection Process actually being a “Site Elimination Process”. This is the process in recruiting new industry to a community. Job creation by existing industry far surpasses job creation by new businesses by a 7 to 1 ratio.

Recently, two state-of-the-art aerospace companies announced expansions in Okaloosa County: Boeing and Gulf Air Group. Most recently, Gulf Air Group announced their intention to build a new 70,000 SF hangar complex at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview. This expansion represents a $16,000,000 investment, creating 55 new jobs at an average wage of $89,000, 179% of the average wage in Okaloosa. Thank you to the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners and Tracy Stage and the Okaloosa Airports Department for their partnership in bringing this project to fruition.
Boeing, through a competitive process, announced an expansion in Fort Walton Beach of 20,000 SF (see facility construction progress below), investing $2,550,000, and hiring 12 new employees at an average salary of $70,000, plus benefits, 168% of the average wage in Okaloosa.

While the direct economic impact is very significant, the indirect impact of these skilled, high paying jobs can have widespread benefits, as well. The impact of adding jobs to a community has what is called a “multiplier effect”. According to the Economic Policy Institute, adding 100 direct jobs in the Durable Manufacturing Industry Group has an impact of 744.1 indirect jobs.[1] Wow.

With the investment Okaloosa County is making in the Shoal River Ranch Gigasite, along with the assistance of the Triumph Gulf Coast Fund, and Governor DeSantis’ Job Growth Grant Fund, we expect manufacturing companies (both new and expanding) to create hundreds of direct jobs, impacting thousands of other jobs in the community.

Welcome New Members
Members in the News
Two local companies were recently named as two of Florida’s Best Companies To Work For; Bit-Wizards (ranked #2 for mid-size) and Simple HR (ranked #7 for small) were both named in the rankings.  The annual Best Companies To Work For In Florida list ranks 100 companies in small, medium, and large employer categories.

Okaloosa County School District named a Worldwide School System of Distinction. The Okaloosa County School District is one of 38 School Systems in the world to be named a Cognia System of Distinction for 2022. The recognition, which highlights excellence in education, is based on the results of the rigorous accreditation process Cognia administered in February 2022. Cognia’s accreditation rubric consists of three categories: Leadership Capacity, Learning Capacity, and Resource Capacity. 

Kay Rasmussen Appointed to the Florida Defense Support Task Force

One Okaloosa EDC is pleased to announce that Representative Chris Sprowls, Florida Speaker of the House, has appointed Kay Rasmussen, Associate Director, One Okaloosa EDC, to the Florida Defense Support Task Force for a four year term of service.
A twenty-year veteran of the economic development profession, Kay earned the designation of a Certified Economic Developer from the International Economic Development Council in 2013. An accomplished military advocate and daughter of a USAF fighter pilot, Ms. Rasmussen also serves as Manager of One Okaloosa’s tri-county Defense Support Initiatives (DSI) committee and is a 2021 alumna of the National Security Forum, Air War College, at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.
Created in 2011 by Florida Statute 288.987, the Florida Defense Support Task Force makes recommendations to preserve, protect and enhance Florida’s military installations, to support and grow the defense industry in Florida, and to improve the state’s support for education, health care, employment, and family programs for service members, families, veterans and businesses that bring military-related jobs to the state.  
Current Topics
If you would like more insight on hot topics, visit One Okaloosa's blog written by Kelly Murphy-Redd, CEcD. You'll find topics such as Incubators and Accelerators, Retiring Military, Talent Attraction, Hypersonic Weapons, and much more!

Executive Committee Members and Staff
Leslie Sheekley, Chair; Jillian McQueen, Vice Chairman; Chad Vuyovich, Treasurer; Dr. Mike Mosley, Secretary; Neko Stubblefield, Member-at-Large; Lee Lewis, Past Chairman

Ex Officios
CareerSource: Michelle Burns
County Commissioner: Nathan Boyles
Educational Partners: Dr. Devin Stephenson, Dr. Melinda Bowers, Mr. Marcus Chambers
Utility Partners: Steve Rhodes, Gordon King, Bernard Johnson
Employees / Contractors
Nathan Sparks CEcD, Executive Director
Kay Rasmussen CEcD, Associate Director / DSI Manager
Kevin Lovelace, Director of Business Success
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Monica Early, Event Coordinator
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Penny Mercer, Accounting Department
Post Office Box 4097
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549